About 7 years, that’s how long ago hundreds of thousands of people had to flee their homes in Syria. Entire towns and villages emptied within days, in the struggle to avert the swirling dark shadow of war. Yet, these portraits won’t focus on shadows, but on the genuinely warm light that people are capable of shedding in the most adverse conditions. The serene pursuit of dignity in the face of adversity, of normality and growth amid chaos and malevolence, is possibly one of the most remarkable and noble human features.
Waiting to return to their native homes in Syria, families do their best to adapt to life in the refugee camps of Southern Lebanon. Often hosting more than one family at the time, each small tent is built out of makeshift materials and, in most cases, the only available furniture is a few carpets and a cooking stove.
An astounding number of children, basically anyone under 7 years old, were born in these refugee camps and know no home other than the plastic tent they share with relatives and friends. Infancy in a refugee camp is by no means an easy challenge, and preserving a kid’s potential for kindness from the corrupting madness of a conflict is no straightforward task either. Emotional stability and proper education cannot simply wait for a war to be over to develop, disheartening, right? But that’s where, stunningly, a tiny miracle kicks in: when, through no little effort, the adults around them – family members, friends, volunteers – in short, people motivated by kindness – manage to organize an island of stability and comfort that creates the necessary conditions for a child’s personal growth to take place. Unlike an artificial bubble, though, merely providing safety while divorcing them from the surrounding reality, this island of affections acts more in the way of a school of responsibility, where kids can learn to be conscientious and competent in a world of peril and uncertainty, while safeguarding the invaluable gifts of empathy and playfulness.